Four Belgian cities have been included in a ranking of the top 100 European cities in which to live, work and invest.
The ranking, published by tourism and real estate communications company Resonance Consulting, assessed European cities on various factors including their aesthetic, landmarks, prosperity, people and promotion.
This year's best ranked city is the UK capital, London. The guide describes the city's rapid recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic and the array of parks, restaurants, work opportunities and real estate investment possibilities it offers.
Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Zurich are not far behind. The guide notably praises Paris' landmarks and shopping options; Amsterdam's connectivity and museums; Barcelona's nightlife and outdoor spaces; and Zürich's household income and study options.
Best in Belgium: Brussels
Brussels is ranked 12th in the list and the best Belgian city, as the EU's home has "plenty of surprises up its stuffy sleeve." The ranking commends the city's high education attainment and diversity, as well as its relatively low poverty rate compared with other cities.
"Understated Brussels is a bounty of breathtaking architecture – surely the Grand Place is one of the most beautiful squares in the world," the ranking notes.
"The city has invested heavily in public spaces, like the Tour & Taxis Food market under the glass roofs of the former Gare Maritime and the Grand Hospice, a repurposed neoclassical complex."
At 47th in the ranking, Ghent was chosen as the second best city to live and work in Belgium, due to its sustainability efforts, low poverty rate and residents' relatively high disposable income.
"Ghent is fearlessly living in the moment, with citizens from 160 nationalities calling the city home," the guide says. The city ranks 31st in the list of European cities with the highest number of residents born abroad. The guide recommends the city's Museum of Fine Arts and St. Bavo's Cathedral.
The ranking also mentions the city's 85,000 students, UNESCO heritage sites, cultural events and contribution to housing Ukrainian refugees.
Despite the city's struggles with drug cartels, Antwerp is nonetheless not far behind Ghent, with the "gilded urban gem" ranked 50th best city for its low poverty rate and abundance of shopping opportunities. The city is ranked 23rd overall for shopping and disposable income, largely due to its many years as a commercial centre.
Liège is the final Belgian town to be included on the list, squeezing in at 88th place. "The city is a hub for transport and logistics, long drawing head offices of international firms like AB InBev, Mittal, Umicore, FN Herstal and others," writes Resonance.
"While Liège may not have the bucolic historic strollers through the centuries that you might find in other European centres, its tiny alleys and hilly topography do reward visitors with spectacular views and discoveries," the reviews continue.
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Liège ranks 51st in terms of culture and the guide says that the local government has invested significant money into supporting the city's legacy of folk festivals, arts shows and concerts, such as the annual electro-rock Les Ardentes.
Europe is back
President and CEO of Resonance Consultancy, Chris Fair, says that many cities have experienced an impressive recovery following the pandemic, notably launching new investments to attract tourists and professionals alike.
"Despite what you may have read during the pandemic about the decline of cities, urban centres remain as desirable as ever. What's changing now is how we live and work within them," he said. "Many cities have used the pandemic pause to position themselves as ever more welcoming destinations."
The consultancy company praises several European redevelopment projects, including Belfast's new Titanic Quarter, the new Rail Baltica high-speed railway project linking the Baltics to Poland, and Europe-wide development as a result of the EU’s REPowerEU project.